The al-ism a-a`zam, Mightiest Name of God in Select Shi`i and Islamic thinkers : from Imam `Ali (d. 40/661) to Sayyid Kazim Rashtī Rashti (d. 1259/1843).
Stephen Lambden - in progress 2016-7.
Islamo-Biblica and Imamology : Biblical figures and motifs and the Mightiest Name among the Imams.
The early Islamic recreation of the Mightiest Name of God motif.
The Proto-Shi`ism, the Ghulat factions and the Mightiest Name of God.
The notes on this site attempt to set forth only select preliminary thoughts on the set of abstruse sigla depicted in an Arabic poem ascribed to the first Shī`ī Imam, `Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 40/661) and the commentary thereon of Sayyid Sayyid Kāẓim ibn Sayyid Qāsim al-Ḥusaynī Rashtī (c.1212/1798-1259/1843).
Select Traditions from the Twelver Imams.
The first Imam `Ali ibn Abi Talib (born c. 13th of Rajab 600 - d. 40/661).
Imam `Ali and graphical and other forms of the Mightiest Name of God
The second Imam Hasan ibn `Ali (3/624-5 - d. Medina, 49/669-70), the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
The third, the martyred Imam Husayn ibn Ali (4/626-d. Karbala, 61/680), the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
ʿAlī Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn, Fourth Imam, called al-Sajjād (d. 95/713)
The fourth Imam Abū Muhammad `Ali ibn al-Husayn or `Ali Zayn al-Abidin (36/658- d. Medina, c. 95/713).
According to Constance Padwick the Shi`i prayer manuals exhibit a pre‑‑occupatlon with the mystery of the "Greatest Name". In one such prayer manual containing prayers attributed to the fouth Shi`i Imam `Ali, Zayn al‑`Abidin and compiled by Shaykh Muhammad ibn al‑ImIlI known as the al-Ṣaḥīfa al-Sajjādiyya. ("The Perfect Treatise for Ritual Prostration", it contains 57 prayers) the mystery of the "Greatest Name" is said to be contained. It in fact begins invoking God through the name Baha'. Kenneth Cragg in his XXXX some traditions draw attention to Qur'an 2:158f and 20s110. See C.Padwick, Muslim Devotions, London : XXX, 1961, pp.105‑6.
At least four compilations of the prayers of the fourth Imam have been made.The prayer in question is for dawn recitation during the Ramadan fast. (cf. Islamic Shi'ite Encyclopedia.Vol.1. by Hassan Al‑Amin(Beirut,1969),p.12X. REVISE THIS
- al-Ṣaḥīfa al-kāmila. Arabic+Persian Ṣaḥīfa-yi kāmila-yi Sajjādiyya. 3rd. ed. [Tehran] : Amīr-i Kabīr, 1342/ 1964. (498 pp., illum. ; 23 cm).
- Prayer-book ascribed to Imam Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn + Persian translation and introduction by Javād Fāz̤il.
- al-Ṣaḥīfat al-kamīla. Arabic and Persian Ṣaḥīfa-yi Sajjādiyya. [Tehran] : Intishārāt-i Ḥusayniyya-yi irshād, 1353/ 1974 (660 pp.) Has a Persian translation and introduction by Sayyid Ṣadr ad-Dīn Balāghī.
- Sayyid Muhammad Husayni Shirazi, Sharh Sahifa-yi Sajjadiyya. Beirut: Dar al-`Ulum. 2001+2+3. (448pp.)
The fifth Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (57/676- d. c.126/743).
Muhammad al-Bāqir (d. c. 57/676) and Ja`far al-Ṣādiq (d. c. 148/765).
The Du`a al-Simāt ("Prayer of the Signs") is traditionally thought to have been transmitted through Imams Muhammad al-Bāqir ( d. c. 57/676) and Ja`far al-Ṣādiq (d. c. 148/765)
Imami Shī`ī sources have it that the around seven page Arabic Du`ā' al-simāt "(Prayer of the Signs") was transmitted through or relayed from the persons of both the fifth Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir (d.126/743) and his son the sixth Imam Ja`far al-Ṣādiq (d. c. 148/765) though its transmission history is complicated. A tradition ascribed to the sixth Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq (d. c. 148/765) apparently has it that the powerful Du`ā' al-simāt was taught to the prophet Moses for his overcoming of his enemies! The Du`ā' al-simāt is in places rich in both Qur'anic and Islamo-biblical allusions and scriptural motifs. It exhibits some definite Abrahamic-Isra'iliyyāt-Islamo-biblical or intertextual dimensions looking back to the sacred writ of the ahl al-kitab in an era of Shi`i symbiosis. This allegedly pre-Islamic prayer perhaps came to be designated the دُعاء الِسمَات Du`ā' al-simāt because of the implications of the Arabic word سمة = sima (pl. سمَات simāt) which word can indicate an outward "sign", "mark" or "characteristic", etc. This is most likely indicative of the "signs", "tokens" or evidences of the power of the الاسم الاَعْظَمِ ism al-a`zam, God's "Mightiest Name", which is specifically mentioned in the opening line and is powerfully indirectly evoked throughout this weighty devotional supplication.
The fifth Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir (d.126/743) allegedly said of the Du`a al-simāt :
هذا من مكنون عميق العلم ومخزونه لمن يسأل الحاجة عند الله فادعوا به ولا تبدوه إلا لأهله
"This [Du`a al-simāt] is of what is hidden in the depths of knowledge; something treasured up for whoever requests intercession from God. So supplicate with it and do not disclose it except unto his [chosen Shī`ī] people."
This fifth Imam is also reckoned to have stated:
لو حلفت أن في هذا الدعاء الاسم الأعظم لبررت
"If you should swear an oath to the effect that the Greatest Name (al-ism al-a`zam) [of God] is found in this prayer you would assuredly be vindicated".
Its opening Arabic text reads as follows:
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ بِإِسْمِكَ العَظِيمِ الاَعْظَمِ الاَعَزِّ الاَجَلِّ الاَكْرَمِ الَّذِي إِذا دُعِيتَ بِهِ عَلى مَغالِقِ أَبْوابِ السَّمأِ لِلْفَتْحِ بِالرَّحْمَةِ انْفَتَحَتْ ، وَإِذا دُعِيتَ بِهِ عَلى مَضائِقِ أَبْوابِ الاَرْضِ لِلْفَرَجِ انْفَرَجَتْوَإِذا دُعِيتَ بِهِ عَلى مَضائِقِ أَبْوابِ الاَرْضِ لِلْفَرَجِ انْفَرَجَتْ وَإِذا دُعِيتَ بِهِ عَلى العُسْرِ لِلْيُسْرِ تيَسَّرَتْ وَإِذا دُعِيْتَ بِهِ عَلى الاَمْواتِ لِلْنُّشُورِ انْتَشَرَتْ وَإِذا دُعِيْتَ بِهِ عَلى كَشْفِ البَأْسأِ وَالضَّرَّأِ انْكَشَفَتْ
 I, verily, O my God! beseech Thee by Thy Mighty, Greatest, Mightiest Most Powerful, Most Glorious, Most Noble Name which, when one supplicates thereby, that an opening be effected of the bolts of the gates of heaven (maghāliq abwāb al-samā') they would indeed be flung wide open through Thy Mercy!  And If Thou art supplicated thereby to rend asunder the narrow confines of the portals of the earth (maḍā'iq abwāb al-arḍ) they would indeed be cleft asunder!  And If Thou art supplicated thereby regarding adversity (al-`usr) it would indeed be ameliorated and become insignificant (al-yusr)!  And If Thou art supplicated thereby regarding the resurrection of the dead (al-amwāt), they would indeed be resurrected (al-nushūr)!  And If Thou art supplicated thereby regarding the removal of misery (al-bā'sā') and suffering (al-ḍarrā') such would indeed be removed!...
- See further : http://hurqalya.ucmerced.edu/node/208/
For details and a full tramnslation of this Supplication see :
- For the Lambden, trans. and notes see this webpage :
On the Commentary of Sayyid Kazim Rashti on this supplication which includes details about the al-ism al-z`zam, see :
The Dawn Prayer for the month of Ramadan and the al-ism al-a`zam.
O my God! I beseech Thee by Thy bahá' ("Splendour") in its utmost Glory (abha') for all Thy Beauty (baha') is truly Brilliant (bahiyy); I, verily, O my God! beseech Thee by the fullness of Thy Splendour (baha')." The opening lines of the Du`a al-sabah.
The twelver Imams Muhammad al-Bāqir (d. c. 57/676), Ja`far al-Ṣādiq (d. c. 148/765) and `Ali al-Rida' are all associated with the Shi`i dawn prayer for the fasting month of Ramadan and its association with the al-ism al-a`zam. This Du`a al-Sahar (Dawn Prayer) is also known as the Du`a al-Baha' and its association with the al-ism al-a`zam is accepted with the Babi-Baha'i religions. For details see below and other links on this website :
According to various Islamic traditions it is reckoned to contain the al‑ism al‑a`zam ("the Greatest Name" of God). Both Imam Ja`far al‑Ṣādiq (d.765 CE) and Imam `Ali al-Rida' and are associated with the transmission of this Dawn Prayer and of traditions to the effect that it contains the Greatest Name. The eighth Shi`i Imam `Ali al-Rida' (d. 818 CE.), who is also reckoned to have transmitted this prayer, reckoned that it contained the "Greatest Name" of God (al‑ism al‑a`zam). He is reckoned to have stated,
"This is a supplication (al‑du`a) with which my father [= Imam Musa al-Kazim] supplicated at dawn times (al‑xxxxx). He used to say, `If the people were cognisant of its greatness (`azimat) in the estimation of God and the speed with which the supplicant is answered they would fight one another with swords in pursuit of it. And if thou [Imam Rida'] shouldst swear an oath to the effect that the Greatest Name (al‑ism al‑a`zam) was contained therein thou wouldst assuredly be fully validated. Thus, if they [the people] should recite this supplication they should recite it with due humility (bi‑xxxxx). Then conceal it! from those aside from this [Shi`i] people and hold back from the mention of this supplication (dhikr al‑du`a)" (cited Kirmani, 3; cf. Faizi,19XX:X).
In one printing 1406/1984-5 of al‑Kaf`ami's al‑Misbah ("The Luminary") there is a marginal note on ascribed to Ja`far al‑Sadiq registering a tradition to the effect that the Dawn Prayer contains the "Greatest Name" (al‑Kaf`ami, 1405/1984‑5: 692).
The sixth Imam, Ja`far al-Ṣādiq (b. Medina 80-669-70- d. Medina, c. 148/765).
Misbah XXXI (1) Supplementary tradition one:
(1) The author of the book Baṣā’ir al-Darajāt mentioned something [about the Mightiest Name] transmitted from [Imam] Ja`far al-Ṣādiq :
“He, exalted be He, made His Mightiest Name (ismihi al-a`ẓam) to consist of three and seventy letters. He gave Adam twenty and five (25 ) letters and He gave Noah fifteen (15 ). He gave Abraham eight (8), Moses four (4) and Jesus two (2) letters through which two he enlivened the dead and healed the lame and the blind. And he gave Muhammad seventy and two letters (72). And He, praised be He, has taken to Himself but a single letter” (Misbah, 398).
Misbah XXXI (2) Supplementary tradition two:
In another tradition from one of them [the Imams]
"There was with Āṣaf but a single letter of the Mightiest Name (al-ism al-a`ẓam) and through it he obtained the Throne of Bilqīs (`arsh al-bilqīs) [Queen of Sheba] before the withdrawal of the glance (irtidād al-ṭarf). And on Our part we [Muslims obtained] of the Mightiest Name (al-ism al-a`ẓam) seventy and two letters and one letter God took to Himself, glorified be He”.
Misbah XXXI (3) Supplementary tradition three:
In the Kitāb al-Tawḥīd from [the sixth Imam] Ja`far al-Ṣādiq :
"There is no abridgement if God, exalted be He, made His names (asmā’) to be of four portions. Of these He disclosed three for the indigent [poor] (or favored?) among the creatures (li-fāqa khuluq) but veiled from them the al-ism al-a`ẓam (Mightiest Name) which is Hidden (al-maknūn) and Treasured up (al-makhzūn). He established for every one of the evident [known] Names (al-asmā’ alk-ẓāhir) four pillars (arkān) though a single pillar consists of thirty Names (asmā’). So the Pillars are twelve and the Names are three hundred and sixty Names such as : al-Raḥman (the Compassionate) al-Rahīm (the Merciful), the King (al-malik), al-Quddūs (the Sanctified), the Creator (al-khāliq), al-Bārī` (the Originator), al-Ḥayy (the Living One), al-Qayyūm (the Self-Subsisting). Lethargy [slumber] does not overtake Him neither does the sleep [cf. Q. 2:255a] of the originator [creator] (nawm al-munshī), al-Badī` (the Wondrous / Novel Creator”), al-`Aliyy (the Elevated), al-`Aẓīm (the Mighty)… And so on until the 360 Names are completed.”
Ja`far al-ʿSadiq, Sixth Imam (d. c. 148/765), select bibliography :
- Tafsir ...
- al-Tafsīr al-Sūfī li'l-Qur'ān `ind al-Ṣādiq... Beirut: Dār al-Andalus, 1979. 272pp.*
- Kāmil al-Tafsir al-Sufi al-`Irfani li'l-Qur'an. ed Dr. `Ali Za`ur. Paris: Dar al-Bouraq, 272 + iv pp. N.d.*
- Kitab al-Taqsim fi Ta`bir al-Hulm (Tafsir al-nafsi al-jasadi wa'l-sufi al-akhlaqi lil-hulm wa'l-ramz wa'l-muqaddas. ed Dr. `Ali Za`ur. Paris: Dar al-Bouraq, 2004. 497pp. *
- Le Tafsīr mystique attibué a Ga`far Sadiq, Melanges de'l-Universitie Saint-Joseph, 1967. *
- Exégèse coranique et langage mystique : nouvel essai sur le lexique technique des mystiques musulmans . Recherches (Université Saint-Joseph (Beirut, Lebanon) Institut de lettres orientales) ; vol. . 49. Beyrouth: Dār el-Machreq, 1970.
- `Le Tafsīr Mystique Attribue a` Ja`far Ṣādiq," in Melanges de L'Universite Saint-Joseph, vol. 43:4, Beirut, 1968.
- Exegese Coranique et Langage Mystique, Beirut, 1970 (trans. as Tafsīr-e Qur`ānī va-zabān-e `erfānī, tr. by Esmā`īl Sa`ādat, Tehran, 1373 Sh./ 1994.
The seventh Imam Mūsa al-Kaẓim (c.128/745-183/799)
The eighth Imam `Ali al-Rida’ ("the Content", "Satisfying") (b. Medina c. 148/765- d. near Tūs, 203/818).
Misbah (4) Supplementary tradition four:
And transmitted from [eighth Imam `Alī] al-Riḍā’:
“God selected for Himself (li-nafs-ihi) Names (asmā’) through which He can be supplicated. The first of those He selected was al-`Alī al-`aẓīm (`The Elevated, the Mighty’ or `The Mighty Name `Alī’ ) for this is the Most Sublime of all things and an expression of their Most Greatness (a`ẓamihā)”.
This tradition obviously express the elevated imamological supremacy of Imam `Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, for Shī`īs the successor of the Prophet Muhammad…
Further traditions attributed to the eighth Imam `Ali al-Rida’ , include the following,
“The Basmala (Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim = "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate") is closer to the Greatest Name (al-ism al-a`zam) than the black of the eye is to its white” (words attributed to the 8th Imam `Ali al-Rida’ [c. 148/765- d. 203/818] as narrated in the `Uyun al-akhbar and the Tafsir al-`Ayyashi, etc).
Supplication for the month of Rajab :
أسْألُكَ بِاسْمِكَ الأعْظَمِ الأجَلِّ الأكْرَمِ الّذي وَضَعْتَهُ عَلى النَّهارِ فَأضاءَ وَعَلى اللّيلِ فأظْلَمَ.
“I supplicate Thee through Thy Mightiest, Most Majestic, Most Honorable Name (bi-ismika al-a`ẓam al-ajall al-akrām), which Thou set down upon the noon [day] time (al-nahār) such that it radiated forth [light] and [placed it] upon the Night (al-layl) which then proffered darkness…”
Then the Imam [`Ali al-Rida'] said, "God alotted two portions of the ism al-a`zam (Mightiest Name) to prophet Jesus ( ‘Isa) which enabled him to perform miracles. God alotted four portions of the Ism al-a`zam (Mightiest Name) to the prophet Moses, eight portions to the Prophet Abraham ( Ibrahim), fifteen portions to the prophet Noah and twenty-five portions to prophet Adam. There are 73 portions of the ism al-a`zam (Mightiest Name) in all, and our Prophet [Muhammad] was made aware of seventy-two of them. There is one ism al-a`zam (Mightiest Name), about which God has not imformed anyone!” (cited Muhammad Baqir Majlisi, `Ayn al-hayat, The Fount of Life, XXXX).
Imam `Ali al-Naqi , the Ninth Imam (d. c. ), select bibliography :
Imam ‘Ali al-Naqi narrated that the Mightiest Name [of God] has 73 letters of which only one was known to Asif bin Barqiah through which he was able to summon the Throne of Bilqis (The Queen of Sheba) in but the twinkling of an eye. We, the [Shi`i] `People of the House' (ahl al-bayt) are aware of seventy-two letters of the ism al-a`zam (Mightiest Name) There is one ism al-a`zam (Mightiest Name) of which only God has knowledge. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (as) said that the rod of prophet Moses was with prophet Adam. It was transmitted to the prophet Shu`ayb and then to the prophet Moses. The rod is now in our possession. It remains fresh and green, as if, it has just been cut from the tree. If can be engaged in conversation and give replies. This rod will come to reach the last [twelfth] Imam al-Mahdi (The Rightly-Guided one), transmitted from hand to hand. The last [twelfth] Imam al-Mahdi (The Rightly-Guided one) will throw the staff towards his enemies whereon it will be transformed into a serpent and swallow them up” ( cited Muhammad Baqir Majlisi, `Ayn al-hayat, The Fount of Life, XXXX)
al Kulaynī = Abū Ja`far Muhammad ibn Ya`qūb al Kulaynī [Kulīnī] (d. c. 329/941)
- al Uṣul min al Kāfī (vols. 1-2). ed. `Ali Akbar al-Ghaffārī. Beirut: Dār al Aḍwā, 1405/1985.*
- al Furū` min al Kāfī (vols. 3-7). ed. `Ali Akbar al-Ghaffārī. Beirut: Dār al Aḍwā, 1405/1961*
- Kitāb al-du‘ā’ in al-Kāfī, of al-Kulaynī. vol. X ADD